By Kathy Hanks The Hutchinson News email@example.com
ALDEN - From the time Karly Frederick was four months old, summers were lived on the harvest trail traveling from Oklahoma to North Dakota.
The Frederick family - her parents, Lance and Lynette, and Uncle Drew and Aunt Connie - has been operating Frederick Harvesting since 1983. As she grew and was able to help, her days were spent in a trailer preparing hearty meals which were served in the fields on hot summer evenings.
Now at 18, Karly has captured the lifestyle of harvesting crops up and down the wheat belt, along with the recipes that nourish her family and employees along the route in "Meals from the Field."
The hard-bound book filled with recipes, information, and colored photographs depicting life along the harvest trail was designed for her senior project at Sterling High School.
But, she is also making copies available for the families on their harvest crews, as well as the families whose wheat they harvest as they travel from the Great Plains every summer. Plus, this future agricultural business major has copies for sale through the publisher www.blurb.com.
The idea of a harvest cookbook came to her after reading Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman's Cookbook.
"She told the story of ranching through a cookbook," Karly said. "I thought I could tell my story of harvest through a cookbook."
Armed with her mother's wood recipe box of harvest recipes, she sprinkled in her own thoughts. Her goal was to convey the feeling of farming through harvest and combines while sharing the hearty meals.
One member of the crew, Ben Foss of Devon, England, knows the value of being nourished while working harvest. Saturday evening they had just finished cutting about 500 acres of wheat in Altus, Okla. He admits during those long hours in the combine spending time anticipating the dinner that will be brought out to the field in the evening.
"You think 'what will we have today?'" Foss said. "Every meal is something to look forward to."
Karly knows the crew's expectations are high when they spot Connie and Lynette's vehicle pulling into the field with the meals each night.
"They know what comes next: a voice on the two-way radio saying, 'Time for supper boys,'" Karly said.
The Frederick crew doesn't eat on the go. They take the time to stop the combines and tractors and gather at the side of the field.
"It's unusual for a harvest crew to stop and eat," Foss said. "But we sit and have a chat like a family."
Foss also knows from experience there is no such thing as a repeat meal during harvest. Every meal is different.
"My mom and Aunt Connie have the hardest job cooking hot meals for supper," she said. Never mind that it might be 100 degrees and windy in the sun-baked wheat fields, they load up individual Styrofoam trays with such things as baked steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and peach cobbler for dessert.
Over the years, Karly has learned how important a break from work during 12-hour days is to the harvest crew. Bringing the food to the field makes it more "homey."
"The simple concept of good food can do so much for a group of people," Karly writes in her book. "Food brings people together, holds a common ground, and soothes the soul."
A typical day of cooking for harvest varies, but a menu is always planned ahead and they shop ahead of time for supplies. Morning begins with baking a dessert, homemade bread, brewing tea into jugs and freezing. In the afternoon, they begin preparing the main course, lay out trays to put the meals in, and gather silverware and coolers. By early evening, they bake the main dish, prepare veggies, garlic bread and dish the meals into trays.
For some harvest crews, a daily hot meal in the field is becoming a thing of the past. On many crews, the women are missing, Karly said. They don't travel along any longer, but stay home to work. Harvesters might live on convenience store snacks.
Karly hates to think what that would do to the worker's morale. She knows the brief time off the equipment and gathered together is a chance to connect, much like a family eating at the dinner table.
A small world
For Karly and her older sister Kassi, growing up on the harvest crew turned into a geography lesson, but also a cross-cultural experience. The Fredericks are connected with Ohio State University's International Agricultural Intern Program and have had harvesters from the United Kingdom and Australia working for them over the years. They have built a bond of friendship. Karly and Kassi just returned from visiting former crews and families in Ireland.
This summer, worker came from Ireland and Wales, along with England.
Lynnette Frederick wasn't surprised her daughter decided to create the cookbook for her senior project.
"She loves going on harvest," Lynnette said. "We depend on her for so many things. She can work in the field, operate machinery and helps in the kitchen, delivers meals and does paper work."
Lynnette also noted that her daughter got an A on the project, and at graduation was one of four students acknowledged for excellent projects.
Karly is passionate about her family's custom harvesting operation and calls herself an "ag-vocate" for agriculture.
"It's so cool," Karly said, as she described the scene every May in their little town of 150, when the semis loaded with combines and all the trailers and trucks line up on Alden's main drag like a big parade to head south for the summer.
Karly's favorite dessert from "Meals from the Field"
GOOEY BUTTER CAKE
1 package of yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter
3 3/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
Mix cake mix according to package. Add stick of melted butter. Pour first layer mixture into greased 9x13 pan. Beat the second layer ingredients together and pour over first layer mixture in pan. Bake at 350-degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Then turn oven down to 300-degrees and bake until no longer jiggly. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Favorite Side dish
1 box chopped frozen spinach thawed and drained
3 tablespoons flour
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup Velveeta cheese
Beat eggs, flour, and melted butter. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes, uncovered.
Favorite main dish
4 cups of cooked, diced chicken
3 ounces of cream cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup
4 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
6 ounces sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 packages crescent rolls
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups of seasoned croutons, crushed
In medium bowl mix chicken, cream cheese, soup, milk, sour cream, cheese, and spices. Separate crescent rolls so that have eight squares and press each square flat. Spoon 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture into half of each square. Fold other half and seal by pinching the crescent dough together. Brush top and bottom with melded butter and roll each crescent in crushed croutons. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350-degrees for 25 minutes.